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T.J. Houshmandzadeh is preparing himself for a monster week against the Bears, regardless of who plays quarterback for Seattle.

Starter Matt Hasselbeck was sidelined with a fractured rib at practice Wednesday, and Seneca Wallace took the first-team reps in practice, but that hasn't stopped the veteran wide receiver from fashioning big plans. He has 10 catches for 110 yards through the Seahawks' first two games and pointed out those are the types of numbers he's accustomed to producing in a single week. After the Bears didn't give him so much as a sniff in free agency, he's prepared to show them what type of mistake they made.

"Ah, man, the Bears ain't hollered at me, man,'' Houshmandzadeh said on a teleconference with reporters. "Jerry Angelo probably didn't think I could play, so I'm going to show him Sunday."

Houshmandzadeh has started doing his homework too, reciting that second-year cornerback Zack Bowman, a fifth-round draft pick, is from Nebraska.

"I started watching film yesterday,'' Houshmandzadeh said. "Obviously, last week was his first week starting against Pittsburgh. He did fairly well. For him, it's just kind of getting out there and getting a feel for it. Obviously, coming from Nebraska, I am assuming when he first got to Nebraska they were probably a run team and they kind of evolved into a passing team, so he probably got better as his college career went on.

"But, obviously he has corners he can learn from. Vash [Nathan Vasher] has got great instincts and [Charles] Tillman is probably more the guy he would want to learn from because they're similar in size.''

The Bears probably would have been interested in Houshmandzadeh, 31, if he wasn't the only top-flight wide receiver that was in free agency. That drove up the market for him quickly and he signed for $40 million over five years in Seattle with the key number being $15 million guaranteed. He's a big target, which is one thing the Bears are lacking.

"That's their choice,'' Houshmandzadeh said. "That's what makes America great. You have the right to do what you want to do and they chose not to do that. It is what it is.

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In a quiet free agency period for the Bears, longtime NFL coach and front office man Pat Kirwan raised the volume around Halas Hall with his comments Tuesday on Sirius NFL radio.

The sounds you heard were fans screaming in protest.

Kirwan and co-host Tim Ryan had a caller on the line who wanted to discuss the Bears. The caller said he was mostly supportive of general manager Jerry Angelo but was frustrated by the lack of moves this offseason, specifically pointing to wide receiver and safety as issues that were not being addressed. Kirwan, who has known Angelo for more than two decades, came to the defense of Angelo quickly. What it turned into, however, was something completely different. Instead of trying to interpret this for you, and paraphrase what was said or try to tell you what was meant, we're just going to lay out the transcript from the ``Movin' The Chains'' show in Sirius:

"Jerry came to Chicago as a proven entity, all right,'' Kirwan said. "He ran the drafts in Tampa, all the drafts that had all those great players. So he came with credentials. The next thing is he brings the team to a Super Bowl. That's on his resume now in Chicago, with Rex Grossman under center that team got to a Super Bowl. The other thing is, if you're a real Bear fan, you know that this is not exactly the most generous spending team in the history of football. So he's got restrictions and restraints and he's not going to [say], `Hey, I'm trying to sign this guy but my owners won't let me,' You think he's going to say that? No.

If not having to face T.J. Houshmandzadeh twice a year is a good thing for the Bears, then they dodged a bullet this afternoon when the veteran wide receiver chose to sign with the Seattle Seahawks.

The Minnesota Vikings put a full-court press on the former Cincinnati Bengal and tried to strike a deal over the weekend, a move that would have made the formidable Vikings' offense even more challenging. But when Houshmandzadeh left town late Sunday night without a deal, chances were he was headed elsewhere.


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Jay Cutler is kickin' mad at the Denver Broncos.

He's been showing up for work dutifully the past few weeks, getting to know the new coaching staff and all the time, at least in Cutler's mind, they've been plotting a way to get rid of him.

It didn't happen. A proposed three-way deal that would have sent Cutler to Tampa Bay, a first-round pick to New England and Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel to the Broncos didn't materialize. Not after the Patriots dealt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for a second-round pick, the 34th pick in the draft. Bill Belichick's longtime associate Scott Pioli lands two players he coveted.

If the three-way deal was real, we imagine the the Patriots would have taken a first over a second. Don't you? Whether or not the more complicated deal got started too late, who knows? The fact is New England didn't find quite the trade market for Cassel it expected, or at least it hoped for, proof that there are many league insiders out there who feel the first-time starter was a "system player'' who was surrounded by top talent on the field and off with a terrific coaching staff.

Maybe new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, who came from New England, wanted to work with Cassel instead of Cutler. Maybe Belichick and the Patriots used a supposed trade possibility to leverage the Chiefs. Know this: Belichick and McDaniels didn't have a Belichick-Eric Mangini fallout. He's not driven to drive his former assistant into the ground, at least not in this setting.

But Cutler tells Mike Klis of the Denver Post that he's miffed. Maybe he's the one who wants out now. Bill Williamson of ESPN.com listed Tampa Bay, Detroit and Chicago as possible landing spots for Cutler. At this point, the Broncos are telling anyone who will listen that Cutler is not available. The team has reportedly schedule a sit down with him in what will likely be the first move by McDaniels to try to mend the relationship.

One of the Bears' primary competitors made a huge splash in free agency a year ago when the Minnesota Vikings signed wide receiver Bernard Berrian away with a $42 million, six-year contract. The Vikes then made a major splash in signing safety Madieu Williams and their biggest move of all was the sign-and-trade deal they engineered for defensive end Jared Allen.

Now, the defending NFC North champion Vikings are in play for the top wide receiver in this free-agent class--T.J. Houshmandzadeh. He's reportedly headed from Seattle to Minnesota for his next free-agent stop. The Vikings, who already have the top run defense in the league, would have an even more improved offense with Houshmandzadeh to work with newly acquired quarterback Sage Rosenfels.

We're just past 21 1/2 hours into free agency and while the action hasn't been as fast as it was a year ago for the Bears when they were hoping to pry Bernard Berrian out of Minnesota and then plotting to get Lance Briggs back at their price, it's been an interesting start.

It's clear the club has out the trenches at the top of the list for this offseason. Rod Marinelli has been brought in to rework the defensive line, and the first move in free agency was signing versatile offensive lineman Frank Omiyale to a four-year contract. Next on general manager Jerry Angelo's wish list appears to be veteran John St. Clair, who can also play four positions on the line.

One of the first signs here is that the Bears want to get bigger on the offensive line. While the natural first reaction was that Omiyale would step in immediately as the right tackle--the Bears don't have one on their roster--Angelo said the club will first look at him at guard, most likely left guard. Angelo isn't pigeon holing him there, and said he'll likely get looks elsewhere, but that's the first idea. Clearly, that means work remains to be done at tackle. St. Clair and a high draft pick could accomplish that. Getting another lineman on board would also aid Angelo in is quest to not be need-driven with the 18th pick in the draft.

If the Bears are in play for free-agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, it's news to his agent.

Contacted Friday afternoon, Chicago-based agent Kennard McGuire said he wasn't aware of any interest the Bears may have in his client. It was reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer in Thursday that the Bears were one of three leading candidates to land the top wide receiver on the market. Not so.

"Not that I know of,'' McGuire said when asked if the Bears were in play for Houshmandzadeh.

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All the indications the Bears have made are that they will not be in play for a veteran wide receiver with proven credentials.

There's exactly one of those set to reach the open market in a little more than 2 1/2 hours now--Cincinnati's T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

And the Cincinnati Enquirer lists the Bears as one of three favorites to land his services.

"The Bengals decided not to place the franchise tag on Houshmandzadeh, which would've been for $9.88 million. It is believed that he is looking for a deal upwards of $10 million per season. As many as eight teams could be in the T.J. Derby starting Friday, but the favorites remain the Eagles, Giants and Bears."

We've learned to never say never, but we will say we don't think so to this one. The Bears went down this same path four years ago when they paid good money on the open market--a little more than $5 million per season--for Muhsin Muhammad. He was 32. Houshmandzadeh, who will turn 32 in September, is seeking big money, reportedly $10 million a year. He's been second fiddle for the Bengals to Chad Johnson. He feels he can break out on his own.

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On the eve of free agency, we're awful excited so we're going to expand Four Down Territory again. If you didn't see, it's worth noting that the NFL has raised the salary cap for 2009 to $127 million. That doesn't do any favors to the teams with a lot of money to spend as it only gives more flexibility to the few clubs who were right up against the number. Let's get into it:


Q: Does the release today of Derrick Brooks or Warrick Dunn interest you even a little bit? Seems like they may still have a little steam left.

J.T., Charleston, Ill.

A: Talk about some swashbuckling moves in Tampa today. The Bucs didn't just release two of the franchise's greatest players ever in Brooks and Dunn, they also made receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard and linebacker Cato June walk the plank. It was stunning news down there. But it doesn't matter if Brooks or Dunn interest me, it's whether or not they interest Jerry Angelo & Co.

My hunch is the Bears will not have interest. They don't have a place for Brooks, who turns 36 in April. The Bears have a better, younger weak-side linebacker right now in Lance Briggs. The Bucs are ditching their Tampa Two scheme with Jim Bates taking over the defense, and Brooks simply didn't fit the defense. Dunn, 34, rushed for 786 yards last season and added another 330 in receiving yards. He's clearly got some ability left to help someone as a complementary back. Right now, the Bears are pointing to Garrett Wolfe and wanting to see him fill that position in his third season. Signing Dunn would block his development.

Matt Cassel speculation in Boston is reaching a fevered pitch after the career backup turned star received notification New England would place the franchise tag on him Thursday and then reportedly faxed a letter to the team Saturday accepting terms of the $14.65 million, one-year contract.

Hey, who wouldn't go for a $14 million raise in a heartbeat? Cassel might be the player most overjoyed by being tagged--ever. No one could blame him.

But it puts the Patriots in a situation where their salary cap of $123 million will be weighted down by $29.27 million committed to two players--Cassel and fellow quarterback Tom Brady. That's 23.7 percent of the cap in two players, and only one of them can play at a time.

Brady's returning from multiple knee surgeries and the wait is on to see what the next move is. Some believe Cassel will be traded. Some believe he's there to stay as insurance. The excellent blog run by Mike Reiss over at the Boston Globe touches all the bases.

Just like there are not a lot of starter-quality options in free agency when it comes to quarterback, it's a thin class at wide receiver.

Cincinnati's T.J. Houshmandzadeh is head and shoulders above the rest of the group. He joined Waddle & Silvy this morning on WMVP-1000. You can find the interview here.

We've said before Houshmandzadeh would be a longshot to join the Bears. It's been rumored all over the place that a likely destination is Seattle, where the Seahawks are in about as bad of a way at the position as the Bears. There are a couple issues at play here when considering Houshmandzadeh. The first is that the Bears are unlikely to set the bar for anyone in free agency. With Houshmandzadeh the class of the group, he's going to command top dollar even in a weakened economy. If the Bears were not willing to come close to keep Bernard Berrian last season, and keep him away from a division rival, they're not going to overpay for someone who is not a home-run threat.

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